Clash in Cambridge: Science and religion seem as antagonistic as ever

From Scientific American:

Dawkins_5 In the very first lecture of the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in June, a University of Cambridge biologist assured the 10 journalists in his audience that science and religion have gotten along much better, historically, than is commonly believed. After all, scientific pioneers such as Kepler, Newton, Boyle and even Galileo were all devout Christians; Galileo’s run-in with the Church was really a spat between two different versions of Catholicism. The notion that science and religion have always butted heads is “fallacious,” declared Denis Alexander, who is, not coincidentally, a Christian. Other lecturers, who included four agnostics, a Jew, a deist and 11 Christians, also saw no unbridgeable chasm between science and their faith.

As the two-week meeting unfolded, however, conflict kept disrupting this peaceable kingdom. Lecturers and journalists argued over a host of questions: Without religion, would humanity descend into moral chaos? Are scientific claims in some sense as unprovable as religious ones? Can prayers heal, and if so, is that evidence of the placebo effect or of God’s helping hand? Why does God seem to help some people and ignore others? By the end of the conference, the gulf between science and religion–or at least Christianity–seemed as wide as ever.

(In the picture: Biologist Richard Dawkins (left), an agnostic leaning toward atheism, explains his reasoning to philosopher Nancey Murphy, a materialist who also adheres to nonscientific ideas, such as the resurrection of Christ).

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